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The Ghost of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats by [Barnes, Juliet]
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The Ghost of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Length: 320 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled

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Product Description


‘A problem with the depiction of Happy Valley arises when you encounter stories like that of Mary Miller, to whom I am very distantly related. Juliet Barnes hears that Mary ‘lived off lorry-loads of champagne and booze before shooting herself…’ Also that she and her husband were on the edge of the notorious party set in their home near the Wanjohi or ‘Happy’ Valley, a chilly cleft in the Aberdare highlands near where Barnes herself lives today. The gossip is entirely untrue, as Barnes, a white Kenyan whose book thankfully begins to debunk the Happy Valley silliness, discovers. Beautifully written.’

(Aidan Hartley Spectator)

'Beautifully told travelogue and historical quest. With family histories woven in, this is a moving, entertaining and enlightening read, and an honest exploration of Kenya’s colonial past.’

(Family Tree Magazine)

'Barnes merges travelogue with history, visiting the ruined and reclaimed homes - once opulent abodes with rose gardens - of the wealthy and often ennobled white settlers of Wanjohi Valley, near the Aberdare mountains in west central Kenya. The author's journey to find out from locals where the set lived is determined and admirable.' 

(All About History)

"A page-turning exploration of historic houses & Kenya’s notorious ‘Happy Valley’. Truly a book of our time, this is a must read if you want to get under the skin of the last 100 years of Kenya’s social history."

(Art Life Magazine)

"The author does a good job of presenting the various views, with added insights after visiting the homes and hearing local lore about some of the main players. In the end a well-thought-out blended theory of the motive for Lord Erroll's murder and the possible perpetrators gives yet another twist to this unsolved mystery.... the book is a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in this period of Kenya's history."

(Old Africa Magazine)

'Numerous books have been written about Kenya’s infamous Happy Valley, but the latest edition, The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching for The Lost World of Africa’s Infamous Aristocrats, offers a fresh, much needed, perspective. This book is highly recommended for those interested in this part of Kenya’s history and wising to understand the current state of things.'

(The Kenyan Star)

About the Author

JULIET BARNES was born and schooled in Kenya, and went to St Andrew's University, Scotland. Today, she lives with her two children Lord Delamere's ranch beside Lake Elmenteita in Kenya's Rift Valley, looking out over the mountains surrounding ""Happy Valley"". She writes for magazines and newspapers in the UK and Kenya and has had children's fiction and non-fiction published in both countries.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5053 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press (4 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781311390
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781311394
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #60,518 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So glad I bought this delightful book. Juliet brings to life the modern rural Kenya, as she tracks down the old houses of the Happy Valley settlers. The anecdotes of the veteran Mau Mau terrorists and the present day residents of the houses give the African viewpoint on White settlers. You sympathize with Solomon trying desperately to save the Colobus monkey and indigenous trees whilst being thwarted by bigwig money interests.
Juliet's description of the almost impossible rutted roads and quagmires, after the rains transported me back to my childhood in Kenya.
A well written book that brings to life modern Kenya and the plight of the rural African living in poverty, fifty years post independence. One wonders what happened to all the billions of Aid money given to Kenya?? It certainly didn't benefit the rural African.
If you are looking for a saucy read about the Happy Valley sex exploits then this book isn't for you. If you want a snapshot of Kenya fifty years post independence with an update on the settlers farms carved up as land settlement plots, then this book is a must read.
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Format: Hardcover
I was really looking forward to this account of twisted colonialism but was hugely disappointed with this book which I believe wanders in and out of focus. There are really two books here: one about the Happy Valley set and one about the state of the area's Kenya tribesmen. The author appears uncertain as to which to choose but the former appears on the cover, leaving the reader desperately frustrated at having fascinating Happy Valley residents picked up and dumped in favour of the estimable Solomon Gitau and his green credentials concerning trees and the colubus monkey. There are two many different journeys here, leaving the book feeling equally fractured. Also, the book needs proof reading. There are a number of errors, which include things which might be said but look odd in print and, occasionally, some extremely uncomfortable phrasing. The result for me is a lack of depth on what should be a fascinating subject, possibly due to insufficient research, and a failure to get under the skin of these extraordinary characters, both individually and as a group. I felt it read more like a set of detailed notes in preparation for a book. I hope the obviously courageous Ms Barnes will forgive me.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Juliet Barnes set herself a very difficult task in trying to rewrite a story which has been told numerous times in the last 30 years. She has used an examination of the remains, in many cases the ruins, of the houses occupied by the decadent Happy Valley set as the basis of this new slant. Frankly it doesn't work! Even if you know Africa, and I have lived and worked in many parts of the continent over the last 40 years, the story gets rapidly tedious and her "side kick" Solomon, a Kenyan who has an obsession with colobus monkeys, just adds to the tedium. However, I am a persistent individual and I pursued the book to the finish. Only in one of the chapters near the end of the book does the story get interesting where state involvement in the murder of Lord Errol raises its head. The majority of the book deals with the modern Kenya,its people, the way it is governed and the day to day life for poor people. It is a very unflattering account but one which I know to be true.
The happy Valley set were a totally useless group of people, a total waste of space and really don't warrant the effort which Juliet Barnes expended on their story. A few years ago I wandered around Karen Blixen's house in Nairobi and only felt a sickening weight in the pit of the stomach - what a poor advertisement these people were for the Empire. However, I have to admit a compelling fascination for Alice de Janze but I suppose that is down to my maleness!
If you have a deep interest in this episode of death and debauchery in Kenya then give it a go - but you may, like me, struggle through most of it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book is not easy to read at times. I think the writer tends to meander through the descriptions of the houses once occupied by the European farmers. One minute we are at the house called Clouds, once the home of Idina, the wife of Lord Errol and then on to other residences owned by people who also carved out a living and strived to exist and then back to Clouds. I find that I am confused by the number and names of people she finds occupies the houses now. The map she included gives us an excellent idea of the kind of distance these people had to cover to get to any kind of contact with the outer world. I learned a great deal about the sad plight of the beautiful colobus monkey and her friend Simon who's conservation work is so important.

Juliet Barnes puts forward some already tried and tested ideas as to who killed Lord Errol. Many of the theories we have already read about in other books like 'White Mischief' or 'The Life and Death of Lord Errol'. Somebody must know something but we may never know. Julian Fellows, who did an hour long documentary on the murder said at the end that he knew who did it but would not tell! Perhaps Juliet Barnes ought to confront him and try and get some more information from him. The book has many interesting moments,especially when she meets some of the old Mau Mau fighters. I would recommend this as a good read and well worth buying as it has some good details about the type of life these pioneers led which was not easy, yet they stayed and loved the country so much
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